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The San Diego City Council has yet to loosen restrictions that make it difficult to establish community gardens in many parts of the city. But the council is expected to do that in the coming months, and that’s already got money flowing to support future gardening within the city.

On Friday, the San Diego Association of Governments approved a $50,000 grant for the city’s planning department to fund law changes that will make gardens easier to establish on most vacant land citywide.

The money will pay for staff to prepare an ordinance for the City Council this summer, said Nancy Bragado, a city planner. The planning department will also use the money to partner with local nonprofits to educate residents about community gardens. The $50,000 was part of $16 million in federal dollars to support healthy community planning in San Diego County (a common way the federal government funds national initiatives on a local level).

Fresh food advocates have often said the city’s stringent restrictions on community gardens have made local applicants less competitive for grant money that would support them. Funders are unlikely to award grants for community gardens in cities that don’t allow them.

Vikrant Sood, a Sandag planner, said the agency’s decision was heavily influenced by indications that the City Council is planning to overhaul its zoning laws to support the gardens citywide.

“We don’t want to just give away money if there’s no chance for implementation. Commitment to finishing a project is also important,” he said.

The city’s grant application ranked first out of nine applicants across the county, he said.

The grant is another step forward for San Diego’s fast-tracked efforts to promote community gardens, which are currently hamstrung by costly permit requirements or outright prohibition on many types of vacant land citywide. City staffers hope to remove the last of the restrictions by this summer, allowing community gardens start to popping up soon after.

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at adrian.florido@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.

Adrian Florido

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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